Barely two weeks ago, Union Township and Village of Hebron voters generously approved an additional 1.5 mill levy for Fire/EMS services, increasing their property taxes by an estimated $393,000 a year. (Full disclosure: On his fifth attempt, this writer will replace Jesse Ours as a Union Township trustee on 1/1/14).
Voters might be surprised to learn that trustees have already spent 100 percent of the township’s fire levy income (estimated at $906,000 per year) for the next FIVE YEARS! Yes, the gang that took nearly two years to build a new salt bin spent some $4.5 MILLION in about 96 hours. You read right – 96 HOURS!
Trustee President Rick Black convened a meeting Nov. 14 with Granville Township and Village of Hebron officials to discuss the township’s new proposal for Fire/EMS services contracts. Each proposed a five-year term beginning Jan. 1, 2014 and ending December 31, 2018. Each department would receive 100 percent of the levy revenue generated in their service area. For Granville, that is the portion of the township north of Columbus & Ohio River Railroad. Hebron serves the much larger southern portion of the township.
This writer – who had invited himself to the meeting as it affects 2014 and beyond – objected to the simplistic formula. The fire levies are multi-jurisdictional and should be allocated like similar levies – MRDD, joint vocational school, senior citizens etc. – on the basis of need, not necessarily where it was generated.
After assuring that both areas are served by departments staffed on-station 24/7 (they are), the best measurement of need is the number of runs. The need is much greater in the Hebron service area (2013 through 11/19) – 52 runs into the Granville service area compared to 360 runs in the Hebron service area. That’s almost SEVEN TIMES as many runs. The split in previous years is similar.
It’s not hard to understand why. The Hebron service area covers much more area, has a larger population that grows even larger during the work day, more miles of roads with much greater volumes of traffic including I-70, commercial and industrial businesses and far more visitors (Devine Farms, National Trail Raceway and Pigeon Roost Farm). The Granville service area is predominately residential with some agriculture and virtually no non-farming businesses.
Union Township paid the Granville Township Fire Department $80,000 in 2013 and the department was under contract for another $80,000 in 2014. Hebron received $420,000 in 2013 after the township unilaterally cut its payment by about $220,000. Based on the runs to date, Granville is projected to make 59 runs for the full year to the 407 for Hebron. That works out to $1,355 per run for Granville and $1,032 for Hebron. Granville is receiving 31% more than Hebron per run. Both departments bill insurance companies for transport.
Black said Thursday that Hebron has been getting about 33 percent of the levy money raised in the Granville service area. He estimated that the existing 3.3 mills raise about $120,000 in the Granville service area. That works out to be about $36,000 per mill, so the new 1.5 mill levy will raise an additional $54,000 in the Granville service area, for a total of $174,000. Hebron will get what’s left or about $731,000. Those are big increases for both departments.
Black insisted Thursday night that both fire chiefs sit down to discuss possible service area changes, but by Monday night that was no longer necessary since Granville was OK with the current boundaries. That means run totals will be about the same next year. Granville will get a whopping $2,949 per run – an increase of 118 percent over 2013 and 64 percent more than Hebron in 2014. Hebron gets a 74 percent increase from $1,032 to $1,796 per run.
The most important question is what do township residents get for their ADDITIONAL $393,000 in annual taxes – almost NOTHING. Residents do get the assurance that Hebron won’t have to cut staff or current services. Some may get a warm fuzzy feeling knowing that they will be subsidizing Granville’s service to McKean Township (87 runs this year through 11/19, projected to 98 for the year (Granville gets about $1,408 per run from McKean’s levies).
Residents will NOT get better service. Granville needs extra revenue to pay the salaries of two full-time staff members that will be coming off a 100 percent FEMA grant. Granville’s response times in Union Township average about eight minutes. Three runs this year to a Connemara Road home in the Fairmount subdivision off Deeds Road averaged a bit over 13 minutes. Other runs to the western edge of the township – Gale Road and the western end of Deeds average more than eight minutes. Hebron acknowledges that it’s quite a haul to get to the western ends of Refugee, Beaver Run and Blacks roads.
Hebron Mayor Clifford Mason suggested Thursday night that the township look at using some of the additional revenue for a small satellite station on Ohio 37 which would dramatically improve response times, particularly those at 8+ minutes and provide better backup for Granville should it be tied up on a northern run to McKean Township. Black immediately rejected his suggestion.
Black and Trustees John Slater and Jesse Slater were apparently eager to pay 76 percent MORE for the same service. It took them about five minutes Monday night to unanimously approve a five year contract with Granville Township. There was no discussion and Black still didn’t have definitive numbers from the auditor’s office. Here are some of the lowlights:
• It sets no personnel standards such as requiring a paramedic on every run; Granville could serve Union Township with EMT-Basics if it so desired;
• There are no standards for response times – Granville will be building a new station sometime in the next five years which could increase response times;
• No ability to terminate or reopen the contract if service deteriorates;
• Each department must complete a five-year plan eight months into the new contract; typically plans are done BEFORE executing an air-tight contract; and
• Voters couldn’t even approve an additional levy for a satellite station as the contracts require 100% of the ‘fire levy revenue’ be paid to the two departments.
Just 96 hours after the discussion started, trustees decided residents will pay 76 percent more for the same service for five very long years. Black and Slater pride themselves on being life-long Union Township residents and Ours is proud of his 68 years here. When did they start representing Granville Township? Ask them why Granville runs are worth 64 percent MORE than Hebron runs.